My Interview with Alexander Theroux

Check out my interview with Alexander Theroux at Bookforum. Here’s an excerpt:

I first encountered Alexander Theroux’s writing—the style of which is grandiloquently lyrical, dizzyingly erudite, and often acerbic—through his books on colors: taxonomies of the spectrum we think we’ve seen but that Theroux, attentive observer that he is, suggests we haven’t really seen at all. I followed up these readings with savoring every word of three of his novels, beginning with Darconville’s Cat, his second novel, a book that satisfies syntactically, texturally, and structurally, reminding me at once of Henry James (because of the novel’s sentential convolutions and its paragraphic architectonics, and also because of the way it limns various consciousnesses); Virginia Woolf and Wallace Stevens (because of its luxuriant and daunting yet still inviting lexicon); John Hawkes (because of its lyricism and sensuousness); William Gaddis (because of its range and the way it captures different voices); Mark Twain (because of its scathing wit); and contemporary fellow travelers like William Gass and Mary Caponegro (hooray for longeurs, digressions, and taxonomies!). What is perhaps more important is how little I actually thought about these things while reading the novel, how, ultimately, the novel coheres into a wonderful prose object, unique in its own right: a singularity. Three Wogs, Theroux’s triptych of linked novellas, is an outrageous book brimming with bigots and other grotesques, all virtuosically rendered, which coheres into a comical critique of human stupidity. An Adultery is largely devoid of lexical pyrotechnics, but it is no less lyrical, and its unwavering scrutiny of emotional brutalities is unparalleled. The narrator’s self-absorption often leads him to observations that are at once insightful and imperfect:

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